Here, she charts brand new theatrical territory in the rivalrous friendship of two middle-class ten year-olds in a girls’ boarding school. Janey and Mimi talk drab and dirty to each other in the dorm, parents and teachers at a safe distance, participation looming in a wonderfully inappropriate school production of that masterpiece of infantile hysteria and witch-hunting, The Crucible.
Mimi’s the main, presumably autobiographical, character, with her sad isolation exposed by her “ f--- buddy” Janey, the queue at the telephone to ring home, the surprise encounter with a middle-aged school governor in lavatory (nothing too fishy), and her interview with an off-hand, disillusioned teacher.
Director Jeremy Herrin has polished this little gem to near perfection, and Bunny Christie’s design, lividly lit by Malcolm Rippeth, catches exactly the white-tiled misery of the institution, its corridors and noise outside, its bunk beds and smelly lockers and classrooms.
There are one or two extraordinary coups: Mimi and Janey (Maya Gerber and Madison Lygo) compel the outsider Nina (Ellen Hill) – all three actors, and the three with whom they alternate the roles, are stage debutants – to execute a head-stand with her knickers off (discreetly protected from audience view); and the tuck box thrown out the window lands in the next scene right by the teacher (Annette Badland) in a previous time band. This is young persons’ most personal theatre at its very best.